Balance Your Life by Planning your Week

What is “Balance”

I don’t like the term “Work/Life” balance because it implies that there are only two areas of importance: Work and Life. The reality for most of us is that “Life” is actually composed of several important roles: Parenting, Homeownership, Friendships, Community, “Me” time, etc….

Most of us already spend at least half our waking hours at work. This does not leave much time for the other important areas in your life.

How I Plan My Week

Every weekend I go through the following ritual to plan the coming week (and I’ve actually built a free iOS app to help)

1. Review your Personal Mission Statement

Although not absolutely necessary to begin, a personal mission statement gives you guidance and is a reminder of what is important to you.  If you don’t already have one, take some time to write one. Every week review your mission statement and update it as necessary.

My Personal Mission Statement:

To find happiness, fulfillment, and value in living I will strive to:

  • Make a positive difference in the lives of others;
  • Spend more quality time with friends and family;
  • Simplify my life; work less; have more “perfect days”; and keep an open mind;
  • Do great things; strive for excellence; and inspire others.
  • Apologize sincerely when necessary.
  • Remember that life is short; be grateful; relax and enjoy the moment; Memento Mori.

2. Identify & Review your Roles

Achieving “balance in life” isn’t about getting a 50/50 balance between “work” and “life”.  You play many more than just 2 roles in life. You should devote time to all the roles you play: Individual, Father, Husband, Friend, Employee, Homeowner, Artist, World Traveler, Adventurer, etc…

Identify all the roles you play in your life that you would like to devote more time to. Ideally you should have somewhere between 4 -8 roles identified. Each week you should make an effort to spend a little bit of time in each role.

My Roles:

  • Individual
  • Father / Husband
  • Family Member (son, brother, cousin)
  • Friend
  • Employee / Entrepreneur
  • Homeowner

Every week I review this list of roles to ensure that they are current.

Personal Renewal

In addition to the roles above, there are 4 special “personal renewal” roles that you should devote time to each week:

  • Physical: Eat healthy, exercise, etc…
  • Mental: Read, learn, etc…
  • Social: Strengthen existing relationships, form new relationships, networking, etc…
  • Spiritual: Meditate, nature, music, religion, etc…

3. Identify and Review your long term Goals

For each of your roles (except the personal renewal roles) your should define some long term goals. What are some big picture goals that would make a tremendous difference if you accomplish them? Make them as specific as possible and not too vague. Each week you should spend a little bit of time getting closer to your goals.

I review my goals weekly to make sure they are still important to me and that they align with my personal mission statement.

Some of my Goals :

  • Individual: Resume Painting; Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro; Visit the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Father / Husband: Weekly date night; 10 year anniversary trip; Build swing set;
  • Family: Help my father lose 50lbs; Family cottage trip; 
  • Friend: Help my friends identify and achieve their goals;
  • Homeowner: Renovate garage; Build a pool; 

4. Identify your Priorities and Plan your Week

One I’ve reviewed my mission statement, roles, and goals I’m ready to start identifying my priorities for the week and scheduling them into my calendar. For each of my roles I choose between 1 and 3 important priorities/tasks to work on that week.

Here is the process I go through to identify my priorities for the week:

  • Leftovers from the previous week: I always look back at my previous week to see if there is anything that I wanted to get done that I didn’t get done. I then decide if I want to bring these over for the current week or not.
  • Previously scheduled commitments: I look over my coming week to identify any previously scheduled commitments, holidays, events, etc… and add them to the appropriate role.
  • Maintenance and unforeseen important tasks: There are usually some “unplanned” things that pop up every week that should be added to my list of priorities: Things like paying bills, making required repairs to your home/car, etc..
  • Your Goals: Finally I look at the goals I defined for each role and make it a priority to do something that will get me a step closer towards achieving those goals.

In an ideal world all your weekly priorities would be centered around your goals, but often times there will be other important or urgent things that will compete for your time. Please read my post “The Four Quadrants of Time Management” to better understand the difference between “important” and “urgent” things.

Example of my weekly priorities:

  • Physical: Gym x2; Run x3; Nutrition
  • Mental: Learn a new Language; Read a book
  • Spiritual: Go for a solo Hike; Play Guitar; Meditate;
  • Social:  Go out for lunch with co-workers
  • Individual: Research VISA requirements for travel to Kenya; Research recommended training regiment for Mt. Kilimanjaro climb; Research estimated costs for trip;
  • Father / Husband: Buy flowers for wife; Spend 1-on-1 time with daughter; Start budget/savings plan for 10 year anniversary trip;
  • Family: Visit my father weekly (and call daily) to make sure he is following his Slow Carb Diet.
  • Friend: Go for drinks with friends;
  • Homeowner: Look at municipal pool regulations; Fall cleanup / maintenance

5. Schedule your Priorities

Using a calendar, task list, or other time management tool, schedule all of your activities into your calendar. I prefer to use the iOS calendar on my iPhone to schedule the time to perform all my priorities for the week. So if one of my priorities is to plan a family trip to Europe, then I will block off 1 hour in my schedule to perform the planning & research. It is ok if I don’t get all the planning done in the 1 hour block, what is most important is that I am chipping away towards achieving my goal. The next week, I’ll schedule another 1 hour block.

You can also use a task list or other time management tool, but I find putting all your priorities into a calendar helps you see how your realistic your week will actually be. It will also allow you to see where there will be time crunches or conflicts, etc…

Remember, the point is to get balance in your life, and to spend a little bit of time in all the “roles” you’ve defined.

Related Posts


The LifeBalancer

7 Habits Life BalancerHelp balance your life and plan your week with this free iOS app.

This app will help you to (1) create and review a mission statement; (2) identify what roles you play in your day to day life and devote time to them each week, (3) align yourself with your long term goals, and (4) continually improve yourself mentally, spiritually, socially, and physically. (please see How I plan my week)


The Four Quadrants of Time Management


Time Management Matrix

Everything you do in life can be classified by it’s urgency (Urgent or Not Urgent) and by it’s importance (Important or Not Important). This creates the matrix illustrated above with four quadrants:

  • Important and Urgent – Crises and Emergencies
  • Important but Not Urgent – Prevention, Planning, and Improvement
  • Not Important but Urgent – Interruptions and Busy Work
  • Not Important and Not Urgent – Time Wasters

We often spend our lives focused on the Urgent things instead of the Important things. In business as in life it is extremely important to ask yourself: “Am I doing this because it is truly important or am I doing this because it is urgent?”

Important and urgent things should not be ignored: Crises and emergencies. However, the more time you can spend on the non-urgent but important things (prevention, planning, improvement) the less crises and emergencies you will experience..

Below is a more detailed explanation of each quadrant along with some examples:

Quadrant 1
Important and Urgent

Quadrant 1 - CrisisFire fighting mode: Crises, real hard deadlines for important project, health & family emergencies, etc…

These are urgent and important things that you should not ignore. However, spending too much time in fire fighting mode will lead to stress and burn out. You will be caught in a never-ending cycle of crisis management.

The only way to reduce the time you spend in this quadrant is to be proactive and to spend more time on the important things BEFORE they become emergencies (see Quadrant 2 below).

Quadrant 1 Example:

Dealing with a heart attack is an Urgent and Important problem that cannot be ignored (but perhaps by living a healthier lifestyle such health emergencies can be reduced or avoided all together).

Quadrant 2
Important but not Urgent

Quadrant 2 - Prevention and PlanningThis is where you should spend most of your time.

Quadrant 2 is all about planning, prevention, capability improvement, relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, etc…

Spending time on these important things should lead to clear vision and a balanced life, discipline, control, and fewer and fewer crisis situations.

Quadrant 2 Examples:

  • Frequently buying flowers for your wife/girlfriend “just because”
  • Eating healthy and exercising to avoid future health issues
  • Preventative maintenance on your home or car
  • Reading, Learning, and Education
  • Forming bonds and strengthening relationships with your friends and family
  • Self renewal and spending time on things that inspire and uplift you

Quadrant 3
Not Important but Urgent

Quadrant 3 - InterruptionsMany of us spend a big portion of our time in this Quadrant confusing the Urgent things for the Important things.

Interruptions, ringing phones, most emails, etc…  Spending too much time on the unimportant urgent things leads to a very short-term focus with continual crisis management.  Your plans and goals will seem increasingly useless since you are unlikely to have time to devote to them.  Your relationships and reputation will suffer and you will feel victimized with no control over your life.

Quadrant 3 Example:

You have scheduled an important meeting with a coworker 2 weeks ahead of time. This person has very limited time and so you carve out a 30 minute window to deal with a very important matter. As you sit down and start the meeting, your phone rings.

The phone is screaming: “Pick me up! Pick me up! Pick me up!”. Most people will pickup the phone and sacrifice the very important meeting for the likely not important but urgent ringing phone.

Quadrant 4
Not Urgent and Not Important

Quadrant 4 - Time WastersThese are the time wasters in your life.

Spending too much time on non-urgent and not important things can lead to dependence on others for your basics, loss of jobs, irresponsibility, etc…

Quadrant 4 Examples: 

  • Trivial busy work
  • Mindless web surfing
  • Watching too much TV
  • Lots of pleasant activities.

How do I use this to make my life better?

Where we are and where we want to be

A. Identify Quadrant 2 activities.

  • Write down all the Quadrant 1 and 3 activities you routinely do (all the Urgent stuff)
  • Write down how you can prevent these things from reoccurring or from becoming emergencies in the first place: These are your new Quadrant 2 activities.

B. Free up time for Quadrant 2 activities

  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 4 and STOP DOING THEM!
  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 3 and stop doing them too.  This is more difficult as it involves saying NO to people.
  • You should now have time to spend on Quadrant 2

C. Schedule time for Quadrant 2Schedule Time for Q2

  • Schedule time to do Quadrant 2 activities. (Put them in your calendar just like a meeting).

D. Reduce Quadrant 1

  • The beauty with spending more time in Quadrant 2 is that it should slowly chip away at all your Quadrant 1 activities.
  • As you reduce your Quadrant 1 activities you have more time for Quadrant 2,, creating a fly-wheel effect.

Simple, right?

Not quite.  The Question “What is important to me?” usually does not have a simple answer.

Example 1: Going to a Sporting event (Hockey, Baseball, Football game, etc…)

Which quadrant does this fall into?  The answer is it depends on YOUR priorities and what is important to YOU. On the surface it looks clearly like a Q4 item – a time waster.  Not urgent and certainly not important.

But, it could be a Q2 event (important) if you consider the event to be an opportunity to spend quality time building relationships with your parents, children, or friends .

Example 2: Watching TV

Clearly another Q4 item: A time waster.  Or is it?  If watching TV is a stress reliever for you and serves as a way to wind down and chill out after a hectic day, it could very well be a Q2 activity.  Just as long as you frame it correctly and consume it in the right way.

To be successful with this method you must have a very clear understanding of what is important to you, what your long term goals are, etc… For more information about how to plan your week around this framework, see my blog post on How I Plan My Week.


Related Posts


The LifeBalancer

7 Habits Life BalancerHelp balance your life and plan your week with this free iOS app.

This app will help you to (1) create and review a mission statement; (2) identify what roles you play in your day to day life and devote time to them each week, (3) align yourself with your long term goals, and (4) continually improve yourself mentally, spiritually, socially, and physically. (please see How I plan my week)